As she speaks I'm scolding myself for allowing my eyes to drift around the room.
What will that wall look like in Spanish Moss? Would the TV work where she has hers, or should I get some wiring put in at the other end?
It's surreal that I'm here at all - a moment of bravery/stupidity and suddenly I'm in the door of the "new" house with the "old" owner. What started out as a simple business discussion quickly became a social call, and I wasn't minding in the least.
While it was easy for me to envision what the floor would look like without the shag carpet, it was much more difficult for me to imagine her husband supervising the construction of the house. Mostly because I've never met him. She tells me the stories that made this house her home; how her husband made a statement with a load of poor quality lumber; how he chose a rounded arch to make their entrance unique. He sounds like a man after my own heart. She stops herself to show me a feature of the windows, top of the line in their day - and are still in great condition.
The longer I'm there, the less I feel like positioning my furniture in my mind and more like I'm being given a great opportunity that I should appreciate.
We chat about the auction sale the weekend before and although she's interested to know that some things did go to "good" owners, you can tell it pains her to talk too much about the life she had being sold off. We laugh over the fact that I bought a desk that belonged to her husband.
"Had I known, we could have just left it here for you!" she smiles.
Personal posessions not needed or wanted went to the highest bidder. The accordions her husband treasured hadn't been around as long as I thought. He bought two of them second hand and only one was new. He taught himself how to play at the age of 60. I'm admiring the two of them more and more. He would sit on the front porch and serenade the neighbor, because he actually could play well.
She speaks of her daughters and how helpful they have been. The packing and cleaning and organizing they have done to help her in her transition from their family home to a modest two bedroom apartment. She would move closer to them, if it weren't for the fact that he's still in town and in a nursing home. He counts on her visits and looks forward to seeing her. Their 56-year marriage is tested by Alzheimers but she's willing to be near him as long as she can.
I'm stunned when she tells me her age - turning 82 in December. She doesn't look it, until we stand to seek out another feature of the house. Her hip and knee have tightened up, making walking difficult. In spite of my protests to return to the couch, she insists on showing me all of the thermostats, as well as the quality cleaning job she has done on the Rec room. Was there ever any doubt?
From time to time we talk about what The Big Guy and I plan to do with the house - mostly redecorating. She apologizes for the dated appearance but we agree it would be pointless to go to the expense of painting only to sell and have someone change it to suit their tastes. I gauge her reaction to things and carefully redirect the conversation to her when I see there's a saddness to her. It can only be expected, but after her generosity, I don't want to be thoughtless of her feelings.
She then tells me how the kitchen is one of the warmest rooms of the house, thanks to the oven and the southern exposure with a large window and sliding glass doors. While she is warm blooded, she would often seek refuge in the cooler living room to the north. I find myself daydreaming about baking on a Sunday afternoon, sunlight flooding the kitchen and it's warmth keeping me toasty as well. In my current kitchen, I get sun only late in the day through one window that faces West.
At some point we discussed the business - the purpose of my visit, and while she never offers me a refreshment, it was obvious she was not keen for our time to end, following me down the stairs and out the door. She shared more stories about the house and the flower beds. By now it's dark out and for the first time I see the view of the town with the lights on. My house on the hill has a beautiful view during the day, but it never occurred to me how lovely it would be at night.
Before I leave I extend an invitiation.
"Things are going to be crazy the next couple of weeks, so I'll say this now. If you would ever like to come back to the house, and see what we've done, you are welcome to do so. I know you might not want to, and I would totally understand that."
Her face lights up and while there is still a sadness to it, I can see she is considering it. If she never comes, I wouldn't blame her. You can't ever really go back. I don't know that I would have any great desire to see in our old home again.
The next day, I'm packing with my Mother and she's commenting on the various attributes of the little house we are leaving. How much we've improved the property and put ourselves in to it.
"You'll miss your oak cupboards," she says, removing pots from a lower cupboard.
"No, I don't think I will," I reply, instead thinking of the sunlight kitchen, the house with a history and a home with a view.